Gaming in Air Pollution Data? Lessons from China

42 Pages Posted: 29 Jan 2013 Last revised: 31 Jan 2013

See all articles by Yuyu Chen

Yuyu Chen

Peking University - Guanghua School of Management

Ginger Zhe Jin

University of Maryland - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Naresh Kumar

University of Miami

Guang Shi

Development Research Center (DRC) of the State Council

Date Written: January 2013

Abstract

Protecting the environment during economic growth is a challenge facing every country. This paper focuses on two regulatory measures that China has adopted to incentivize air quality improvement: publishing a daily air pollution index (API) for major cities since 2000 and linking the API to performance evaluations of local governments. In particular, China defines a day with an API at or below 100 as a blue sky day. Starting in 2003, a city with at least 80% blue sky days in a calendar year (among other criteria) qualified for the "national environmental protection model city" award. This cutoff was increased to 85% in 2007.Using officially reported API data from 37 large cities during 2000-2009, we find a significant discontinuity at the threshold of 100 and this discontinuity is of a greater magnitude after 2003. Moreover, we find that the model cities were less likely to report API right above 100 when they were close to the targeted blue sky days in the fourth quarter of the year when or before they won the model city award. That being said, we also find significant correlation of API with two alternative measures of air pollution - namely visibility as reported by the China Meteorological Administration (CMA) and Aerosol Optical Depth (AOD), corrected for meteorological conditions, from NASA satellites. The discontinuity around 100 suggests that count of blue sky days could have been subject to data manipulation; nevertheless, API does contain useful information about air pollution.

Suggested Citation

Chen, Yuyu and Jin, Ginger Zhe and Kumar, Naresh and Shi, Guang, Gaming in Air Pollution Data? Lessons from China (January 2013). NBER Working Paper No. w18729. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2208340

Yuyu Chen (Contact Author)

Peking University - Guanghua School of Management ( email )

Peking University
Beijing, Beijing 100871
China

Ginger Zhe Jin

University of Maryland - Department of Economics ( email )

College Park, MD 20742
United States
301-405-3484 (Phone)
301-405-3542 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Naresh Kumar

University of Miami ( email )

1425 NW 10 Ave, Suite 308
Epidemiology and Public Health
Coral Gables, FL 33136
United States
305-243-4854 (Phone)
305-243-5577 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://eph.ccs.miami.edu

Guang Shi

Development Research Center (DRC) of the State Council ( email )

No. 225, Chaoyangmen Nei Dahie
Dongcheng District
Beijing, 100010
China

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